During Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, the force is highlighting the exploitation of vulnerable young people and how to spot the signs that they may have been targeted by criminal gangs.
Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) typically sees members of organised crime groups targeting vulnerable young people or adults and coercing them into selling drugs.
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Gangs often target young people with special educational needs or mental health difficulties.
They also look for emotional vulnerability such as those experiencing problems at home and seek to fill the emotional gap for the child by becoming their ‘family’.
Detective Chief Inspector Emma Wheatcroft said there are a number of signs to look out for including school absenteeism and youngsters going missing from home.
Those recruited by gangs may also have new clothes, phones or money, which they cannot explain.
They may also receive a lot of texts and phone calls, their behaviour may have changed and they may be associating with people or groups of new ‘friends’.
Chf Inps Wheatcroft said: “If you have any concerns or are worried about a young person, please speak up. Talk to someone you trust, whether that’s a parent, teacher, friend or another trusted adult.”
Gangs in Sheffield have played their part in a number of crimes involving children over recent years.
In 2007, 16-year-old gang Jonathan Matondo, was shot dead in Burngreave in a gang feud.
At the time of his death, the teenager, who was a member of the S3 gang operating in Burngreave and Pitsmoor, was serving a supervision order for a robbery in 2006.
A few days before he admitted to a friend that he had either stabbed or slashed somebody in a nightclub in Sheffield city centre.
Detectives believe he was targeted in retaliation for a shooting at a house belonging to relatives of an S4 member.
The same gun used to kill Jonathan was used to fire at another S3 member's home two months earlier.
Nobody is behind bars for the killing.